Every year over the Christmas and New Year break I draw up a mental list (who am I kidding? It's an actual written list. There IS a notebook) of projects to be undertaken and completed by the time I return to work. This has almost always been an exercise in setting myself up for failure and these days I am pretty relaxed about it when I inevitably fail to complete entirely achievable tasks over the week and a half of spare time I find myself having. Stuff like selling unneeded items on TradeMe or fixing the hem on a skirt I haven't been able to wear for months without looking like Courtney Love's Polynesian half-sister (Love, being the patron saint of unkempt people everywhere).
Anyway, one of my goals for the festive season just gone was to finally read the supernatural love story and pop culture behemoth Twilight.
Why? Well, I'd always been interested in the polarising nature of the book. Some people think it's dreadful and will almost dehydrate themselves when discussing it, such is the quantity of spittle that issues from their angry little mouths when describing the book, while others prefer to lose moisture via the medium of drool claiming it's the greatest book they've ever read. I personally know people from both camps and I wanted to get an insight on why they should react so differently to it.
Having said that, I'm not going to claim to have gone into this with a completely open and objective mind. I'd already seen the movie when it came out and been generally underwhelmed, so I wasn't going to enjoy any suspense with regards to main plot points. But then I often end up reading a novel as a result of seeing the movie and I've never really felt that knowing what happens detracted too much from the reading experience.
And then there's that whole Twihard thing. I have to admit I was filled with trepidation upon borrowing a large-print copy* of Twilight from my local library. I mean, what if I actually liked it? What would that mean? I even attempted to borrow it "on the downlow" by using a self-issue machine only to be hampered by the attentions of not one, but two former colleagues (damn friendly librarians getting all up in my business). It was like being caught with porn. Or The Mahound. Not that there's much difference.
And so it came to pass that I kept a record as I read (see aforementioned notebook), of my impressions of the novel. A diary of sorts. The following are excerpts of that diary. I'm going to ruin the ending for you. I didn't like it. But here is the precise manner in which that not liking occurred, scrawled in a notebook for your enjoyment.
List of chapter titles - Not so far offended by these. A bit bland sounding but nothing spittley happening yet.
Quote from the Bible - Not generally my thing but I've never held "a Bible quote in the preamble" against Stephen King. Am choosing to read Genesis 2:17 as if Vincent Price were narrating it like that bit in the middle of Thriller. The quote ends with "thou shalt surely...die" so a nice fit really. Bah, bah, bwahhahahaaaa!
(No page number written down. I clearly hadn't got into the swing of this properly yet) - Every time Bella says she hates Forks I imagine Kirsten Stewart shovelling food into her face with her hands instead of using cutlery.
Pg 21 (ah, that's better) - Bella is complaining about the "communal" bathroom she has to share with her dad. Er, if you have to share a bathroom with one other person that doesn't make it "communal", it makes it "shut the hell up and stop complaining you whiney little turd".
Pg 42 - Ping! Incorrect use of the word "literally". I wonder if I should stop reading this now?
Pg 43 - I'm finding the use of adjectives really repetitive and annoying. I've never noticed that in a book before. How many times do I have to be told that something is "green" or "wet" before we can move on to some other words that the English language has in it?
Pg 62 - Edward Cullen's voice is apparently "musical". I'm trying to imagine what that might sound like...
Pg 83 - Edward's voice is "musical" again. Still trying to figure out what that would be like but can only come up with Cliff Richard. Cliff Richard's voice is musical therefore Edward Cullen sounds like Cliff Richard. But he's not going on a Summer Holiday because of the sparkling (not that we've got to that bit yet).
Pg 100 - I have started reading in my head with the voice of Matt Damon. That is, Matt Damon as portrayed in Team America: World Police. This voice fits well with the incredibly dull descriptions and dialogue.
Pg (didn't write it down again. Sigh) - Am getting really sick of Edward's face being described as "heavenly".
Pg 193 - Bella is marinating fish for dinner. I'm starting to think this is the most interesting thing about her.
pg 219 - Have just read the word "flicker" for what seems like the hundredth time. Am getting mightily sick of this word.
pg 252 - I actually don't want to read this anymore. Bella is really getting on my wick. She's really, really boring and I think I'm supposed to find it heartwarming that she's so clumsy but it just feels like a tacked-on character trait to make her more appealing. It's not working.
pg 283 - Oh God, more "flickering". Like the flames of the cleansing fire that would consume this book if I poured lighter fluid on it and set a match to it.**
pg 328 - Halfway through! Oh God, Bella is mental. Gah!
pg 331 - "...his beauty pierced me through with sadness" Gah! Vomit! Gah!
pg 361 - "His beauty stunned my mind..." Oh, is that what's done it? That would explain it then.
pg 375 - Edward reveals that he's been coming into Bella's bedroom on a nightly basis and watching her sleep. Worst. Boyfriend. Ever. "You're interesting when you sleep," he says. I expect this is the only time.
pg 519 - It's rattling along pretty quickly now. If I don't pay too much attention to the characters it's actually not too bad. (Have just read this entry again and I think you should ignore it. I was clearly suffering from literary Stockholm Syndrome.)
pg 568 - Things are getting quite exciting now. I can't wait until Bella gets killed. Oh God, she doesn't actually die in the end, does she? Goddamn! Why am I reading this?
pg 571 - Bella almost dies (yay!) but still has the wherewithal to keep calling Edward an "angel" and "perfect" as she dramatically doesn't quite expire. I hate her so much.
About the author - Stephenie Meyer has a degree in English Literature. I am dumbfounded. I wonder if it's one of those "degrees" you can get on the Internet?
And then it was over and I went back to my old life and read a graphic novel about science and never had to read a book by Stephenie Meyer ever again.
So basically, this wasn't the worst book I've ever read but I did find most of the characters annoying and two-dimensional. I'd even go so far as to say that Bella Swan is the least sympathetic protagonist in a novel since Patrick Bateman. And the writing itself was fairly average on the whole and quite bad in places. PD James once said that Jane Austen's work was "Mills and Boon written by a genius". I think Twilight is "Mills and Boon written by a crazy cat lady".
The worst thing about this whole episode (other than actually slogging through the book) was that I didn't start reading the book until after I'd started back at work so I had already failed to read it in the allotted time and I now find that I have $4.50 in late charges owing on a book that I was ambivalent about reading in the first place and didn't enjoy. I hope you effing appreciate how much I have suffered for this blog post.
Sometimes you just know, regardless of the enthusiastic testimony of someone else, that something just isn't "your thing". But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try it anyway. I kind of doubt that caviar is a food that I would really enjoy but that doesn't mean I wouldn't give it a go if someone offered me some (but since I move more in "corn chip and hummus" circles I doubt it will come up). Sometimes you have to go a little bit outside your comfort zone to really appreciate the comfiness when you get back to it. And boy do I appreciate not reading Twilight any more.
Ever been talked into the equivalent of reading Twilight and been surprised to find you actually liked it? Or are your preferences always pretty much as you imagine them?
* Librarian's tip - When all copies of a popular book are out or reserved up the wazoo, large-print copies are often available. In this case Twilight isn't as popular with squinty senior citizens. Who knew?
** Don't burn books, kids. Especially not library books. Even if they're not very good.
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